We have just spent a year debating the state of our race relations. Not sure what conclusion we came to, except that we had made some progress--enough to allow the country to push past historic prejudice and elect Barack Obama. Oddly enough, following his historic election, we saw a return to old-school racial politics when Rep Bobby Rush of Illinois claimed that the Senate's hesitation to seat Ronald Burris was a replay of George Wallace's segregationist tactics. No, when Sarah Palin was urging her fans to exhibit racial hatred, that was racist. Rejecting Burris was stupid on legal and political grounds. Blogojavech is an idiot and a criminal, but he is still Governor and this appointment, absent any evidence to the contrary, is legal. Change the law for the future. Run an African American candidate. Whatever. But this appointment controversy is not about George Wallace. It is about a corrupt Governor and a weak and ham-handed Senate Majority leader.
But racism is not over, and we all know that. One of the facts of racism in this country is the racial profiling and disproportionate response to people of color by some in our law enforcement community. In a very disturbing story from the Bay Area, a BART cop evidently pulled a gun and shot a black suspect in the back--even as the man lay on his stomach on the ground beneath him.
Perhaps this is not about race. Perhaps this is a continuation of what seems to be an encouragement of more brutal police tactics. Just recall both political conventions and the blanket arrests of anyone even appearing to protest, or even cover the protests. Or what seemed like a trend of cops tasering suspects needlessly. Perhaps this is about that. Over-reaction in the post-9-11 world. I don't know. But the story makes me a little ill.
I saw a bumper sticker at yoga yesterday with a W on it, and the phrase "still the president" underneath. Not completely sure what side, but I think it is about Bush fatigue, not an endorsement. I thought of that this morning when I read this story about Obama and the Blair house. I had heard about it for a month or so, but had dismissed it as probably not what it appeared. Still not earth shattering, but it appears that the Bush people just denied the Obama family the Blair house out of spite. They told the Obama people back in December that the guest quarters were already booked with foreign dignitaries. But no dignitaries were actually booked, and after that, the Bush people evidently asked former Australia PM John Howard to stay at the Blair House (for one night, mind you) so they had a plausible example. Nevermind that the Obama's are staying in a very nice hotel, but that also requires extensive, and expensive security at that hotel--security that was already available at Blair.
Part of me will miss the man Garrison Keillor called the "cheerful idiot," but most of me will just be glad he is gone. Greenwald notes the very important change in policy Obama signaled with the appointment to the OLC of Dawn Johnson. Not only is she well qualified, but she is, as some have noted, the "un-John Yoo."
In other words, we are seeing evidence that Obama's people will actually reverse the horror of Bush's torture regime. As Keillor suggested, that won't sway Bush. One thing we learned of this man over 8 years is that he is incapable of self-inquiry or question. What he does is right, and is what God wants him to do, and naysayers are simply proof he is right.
But just as we are seeing the end of this disaster, we are seeing conservatives suddenly recover their fear of a powerful President. Unbelievable. They defended every excess of Bush either under the idea that he was inherently good and trustworthy, or because the conditions of wartime meant that he had to have more power and only traitorous gay terrorist flag burning abortionists would disagree. For a better example of this insanity, witness the unbelievable specter of the aforementioned torture enabler John Yoo and the man who still wants us to invade, well, everyone, John Bolton writing in the NYT that we need to be wary of a strong President Obama and that Congress should assert oversight. Kos diarist Hunter attempts to explain just how funny this is:
Let me attempt to describe this. Suppose a dozen clowns die in a circus fire. Not funny. Now, if a dozen clowns burst into flames while attempting in unison to program their VCR: funnier. Now suppose a dozen clowns beat each other to death with whole, unfrozen bluefin tuna: goddamn hilarious. (Let it be said, for the record, that I am indifferent to clowns, except that I have it on good authority that circus clowns have no souls.) Watching the legal wranglers of torture, "preemptive" military action and Unitary Executive-ism pen an ode to the proper encumbrance of executive power? It is at least clown-and-tuna funny.